A Strong Mind Starts with a Strong Body: A Series

I just created a new category for future blog posts: Health & Fitness. In the coming months I will discuss the idea:

A strong mind starts with a strong body.

I firmly believe the entrepreneurial lifestyle must start with the living, breathing organism. As a Jamba Juice cup has said, "Your body is a temple. Respect it." Unfortunately, some people think the entrepreneurial lifestyle means disrespecting your body by depriving it of exercise, sleep, or proper nutrition.


I will argue that people who claim they are at their peak mental performance while not maintaining a healthy body are deluding themselves (and you). I’m assuming that the dualist "mind and consciousness is distinct from the biology of the body" argument is not credible with most readers, so I won’t address it in this series. I think: Our brain is a bunch of chemicals and subject to biology.

I’m not a personal trainer. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not a sleep consultant. But I am someone who cares about each of those things and who has reaped the benefits of being physically fit in many ways.

This series of posts won’t target Iron Man or Marathon runners nor will be a dieting plan for the obese. It’s for people like me — casual enthusiasts who realize the importance of fitness. It also won’t be a attack against people who’d rather not worry about their body. As the former University of Chicago president Robert Hutchins once said, "When I feel the desire to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes." To them I say, "Enjoy!"

Some of the topics I’d like to write about include:

  • Basic nutrition — the foods and liquids that elevate you to peak performance
  • The argument, "I don’t have time to exercise."
  • Different kinds of exercise
  • Physical fitness habits — how busy people make it a priority
  • Exercises to do at the gym
  • To gym or not to gym, that is the question
  • Sleep
  • Weightlifting — the joys of a beach without your shirt on (joking)
  • Hydration
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Fitness when traveling
  • The music of exercise — Is Kelly Clarkson as good as it gets?
  • Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Anything else you’d like to see?

13 comments on “A Strong Mind Starts with a Strong Body: A Series
  • Being physically active is often its own reward. It simply feels good to work your body. I find it limiting — and ultimately counter-productive — to conceive of keeping in shape as a means to an end. I would keep in shape even if didn’t lead to greater productivity, better health, a sexier body, and so on.

    Also, it’s worth noting that fitness is not required for a successful life. Exhibit A: theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, who is quadriplegic.

  • It’s not counter-productive to conceive of keeping in shape as a means to an end. If exercise had the same effects as smoking, and vice versa, I’d be a fat chain-smoker and proud of it.

    I exercise for three reasons:

    1) Practicality – I want a longer, better lifespan

    2) Image – I look down on people who choose not to exercise discipline (pun intended) in order to extend and improve their lives. I don’t want others to do the same to me.

    3) Mind-body well-being – I agree that the mind is smarter and life is better if your body is running well (pun intended).

    Interestingly, the ability to lift more or run faster shows up nowhere in my reasons.

  • I’d also say that a strong body starts with a strong mind. As someone who’s lost a lot of weight (100lbs+) over the last few years, I know that absolutely all of my victories started with my state of mind and, to some extent, the ability to trick myself into doing the healthiest thing.

    As for “I don’t have time to exercise,” Fred Anderson (chunktohunk.com) has a chapter in his book (which started a blog) where he talks about how people would never say things like “I don’t have time to bathe” or “Toiletries cost too much”. Again, mindset.

    One last thing: I think, ultimately, people who don’t serve their health really don’t think they are worthy of being taken care of. If you can convince yourself that you are, then you give yourself permission – indeed, you push yourself hard – to be taken care of…by you and no one else. That’s powerful, but can be scary for those who don’t think they deserve that level of care.

  • To the second commenter: You make an important point: we are diverse in our motivations. But my observation is that most people who stick with a fitness program do so for reasons unrelated to external rewards such as longer life. For me, I enjoy the thrill of testing my limits. In this sense, athletes (a term I used broadly here) and entrepreneurs are kindred spirits; both groups are driven to set challenging goals and achieve them.

  • great! you know, i’ve been wanting you to write about that topic for some time now. you mention exercise in many of your posts, and i’ve always wondered how you manage to work it into your schedule.

    i also think that your mental state and your physical state are correlated but maybe not quite in the way you describe. last year i went through a very dreary period (feeling unchallenged by work etc) and ended up gaining around 15-20 pounds over a period of 6 months. the weight gain came from emotional eating – i have a habit of eating out of boredom. now that life has gotten interesting (with multiple jobs/mba program/etc) i feel more motivated to eat properly and exercise. basically, for me being happy and staying healthy are two sides of the same coin, and improving either of these variables requires a multi-pronged approach.

  • Ben:

    I’d also be interested in some of your fitness ideas.

    At about 50 years older than you, I had become used to ribbing about my always managing some exercise every day until those doing it died off. Several days a week at the YMCA I see a 67 year old who still runs marathons and a 83 year old who beats people half his age in racket ball. Both are mentally alert fully involved with life.

  • After having read this post and replies…. I am on my way to the gym on this Sunday evening. I just downloaded some new music on my ipod, have finished studying and passed my securities exam, and just haven’t been to the gym enough the past two weeks. Thanks people!

  • I agree that the state of your body can effect how you feel. People who don’t exercise regularly and disagree may just have adjusted to their relative state of alertness and mental acuity.

    I think it’s pretty well recognized that exercise can also help with overcoming depression and the release of endorphins that exercise induces is an example of the chemicals affecting our mind. Biology indeed.

    For those who are interested, there’s a great resource on the internet at crossfit.com that gives usually about a 20 min workout for people. May be intimidating to beginners, but it can be scaled down. P.S. I’m not affiliated with crossfit in anyway, other than that I do their workouts daily and have found them a big help after 10 years of football/gym workouts.

  • I have a nutrition question:

    Is it truly necessary to eat a wide variety of fresh foods now that every cereal and energy bar has spray-on vitamins?

    Fresh food is great, but it can be hard to find the time & money for it. Are there acceptable substitutes? Every health-conscious person I talk to responds with an emphatic ‘no’, but most of them are being dogmatic.

  • it’s amazing to think with all this time spent on fitness, exercise, and nutrition, you are still unable to even come close to being physically stronger than your brothers. To take the beatings that you took as a young child at the hands of your older brothers, and then not do anything about it, is truly embarrassing. It’s gotta be tough to be not only the shortest man in the family, but also the skinniest. Then, to top it off, you are by faaaaar the palest of the bunch too. I wish you the best of luck in the future.

  • Ben,

    I think it’d be worthwhile to explore how meditation and other mental exercises fit into a comprehensive wellness routine. I realize the focus of your next series of posts will examine how “a strong mind starts with a strong body”, but if you could also devote a few posts to “mental” exercises, I think it would provide an added dimension to the ultimate question you seem to be pursuing (how do we strengthen our minds?).

    I find that when I don’t have time to quiet my mind, my mental signal to noise ratio gets out of whack. I’d be interested to get your take on the topic.

    Thanks, Ben!

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